What is a walkie-talkie?

What is a portable device that can transmit your voice through the air, but is not a mobile phone? It seems you’ve heard something about an outdated appliance called “radio”… wait a minute! Does it still exist? Oh, yeah! It exists and it’s not going to die anytime soon!

Walkie-talkies versus cell phones

Two-way radios are now popular and able to replace a mobile phone in some cases. Here are several reasons to use a walkie-talkie:

In work groups, when people need to connect to each other immediately, a cell phone does not fit. A radio works differently from a mobile phone: the only thing you need to do is to push the button and speak, you don’t need to dial and wait for it to connect. It saves time and allows you to communicate with a lot of people at the same time.

It’s free. You don’t need to pay for a call, and this is really a good reason.
In the places where your mobile phone does not work because of the absence of a radio tower, a walkie-talkie can help you. All a radio needs for functioning is its battery and an antenna. A radio is independent of a mobile operator with its connection problems. You can use it in the Amazonian forest, in the mountains, far in the sea and even in space. Having a powerful two-way radio and permission to use it, you can even talk to astronauts on the ISS!

It’s easy to use. A walkie-talkie does not have any entertaining apps, nor a photo camera, nor the Internet for fun. Some of them are supplied with advanced functionality, such as text messages, Bluetooth, GPS, data transmission over the Internet (only to increase their range and for the cleanliness of the sound), but these models are expensive and need official permission to use. In all other cases, walkie-talkies are used only for talking and listening to FM-radio as a maximum. So, you can just buy it and use it. Unlike a cell phone, it’s resistant to external factors. Usually, they have a rugged case which is water and dust resistant. So, you can’t break it easily. More expensive models are shockproof – and in this case, you would need a big impact to break it!

But don’t forget that a two-way radio has less coverage area than a cell phone and its sound cannot be clear over long distance. And in spite of the availability of many frequencies, you can not use all the ranges except for only one which is permitted for use without the license – the ranges are different in different countries. PMR (446 MHz) is used in most European countries, LPD (433 MHz) is in Europe too, but it is much less widespread, FRS/GMRS channels are used in the USA and Canada.

How does it s work?

A radio transmitter is the heart of a two-way radio, its eyes, voice and life power. It’s that magic, which sends your words to the other people standing far away. You put the main big button, wait for a couple of seconds, say “Hello” and listen to reaction from the other side. The main principle of how does it work is based on radio waves – the invisible flows that travel through the air. They can penetrate the air and the vacuum, but the water or any solid matter is unavailable for them. So, take a note about it when using your radio outdoor.

When you speak, a receiver turns your voice into a signal, then an antenna sends it to all radios which are located near you. There, the signal is decrypted into a voice again. So, all surrounding people who have a radio can hear you.

How far can walkie-talkie reach?

Probably, it’s the most frequent and difficult question that people are interested in. The issue is in a variety of different factors which influence on a range. It’s important to realize that a two-way radio does not have a characteristic called “a communication range”. However, let’s try to solve the task. A communication range depends on these factors:

  • Output power. If your walkie-talkie has 0.5–1 Watt of power, all you can count on is a line of sight. You can try to increase the range by buying the longer antenna and choosing the highest place to send a signal. If you have more than 1 Watt of power you also may not reach much more range, because of the power is not the first question for the portative radios. But if you an owner of a CB-radio – yes, high power can help you to cover the more field.
  • Antenna. You can get more benefit from an external antenna than from a built-in. The principle is easy: the longer and better the antenna is, the further signal reaches. Don’t hold a radio horizontally, the better position is vertical, then an antenna will work right and you can get a maximum profit. If you have a base radio station at home, you can use a big stationary antenna on your roof or a wall, if it’s permitted by your country’s police. In this case, you can try to connect to a satellite passing by under your side.
  • Battery power. Surprisingly, but battery charge influence on a communicating range. Hold the battery full and use the type of battery that the producer provided.
  • Receiver sensitivity. This option is more important than output power. You better bye a walkie-talkie with more sensitivity of a receiver than with more power. This way, your radio will be able to better “hear” a far-distanced signal. It’s good for a hand-held radio to have the sensitivity of less than 0.5 and 1.5 for CB-radio. If some producers don’t provide this information, it is probably a bad sign.
  • Landscape and barriers. The fewer barriers are around you – the better. As we said above, radio waves can travel through the air and the vacuum but can’t go through a solid matter. Based on this, try to choose the hills or an open field to send a message. Broadcast across a lake would be the best. Try to avoid interferes: other radios, military bases, other emitting objects.

CB-radios and walkie-talkie long range.

Walkie-talkies can reach 4–7 miles (up to 11 km) in a field, 2–5 miles (up to 8 km) in a forest, the same in a town and in a village, and 2–4 miles (about 6.44 km) in a big industrial city.

CB-radios can reach 5–13 miles (up to 21 km) in a city between two cars, 15–35 – between a car and a radioset with a stationary antenna located on a building’s roof, and 9–22 if a car connects to a track with a big antenna.

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